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Utah GOP convention delegates look past Curtis, Moore and Maloy

Trump-backed mayor tops House incumbent for Romney seat, but primary still looms

From left, Rep. Blake D. Moore, R-Utah; Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La.; and Utah Republican Reps. Celeste Maloy, John Curtis, and Burgess Owens at a swearing-in ceremony on Nov. 28, 2023 in the Rayburn Room of the U.S. Capitol after Maloy won a special election.
From left, Rep. Blake D. Moore, R-Utah; Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La.; and Utah Republican Reps. Celeste Maloy, John Curtis, and Burgess Owens at a swearing-in ceremony on Nov. 28, 2023 in the Rayburn Room of the U.S. Capitol after Maloy won a special election. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Delegates at the Republican state convention in ruby-red Utah booed the sitting Republican governor, rebuffed two Republican members of the House and backed the Trump-endorsed Senate candidate over nine other Republicans, including another House incumbent.

Hours after snagging former President Donald Trump’s support, Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs won the backing of a majority of convention delegates Saturday to replace retiring Republican Sen. Mitt Romney. “Trent Staggs 100% MAGA, and is running to fill The Mitt Romney, a Total Loser, Seat as the next Senator from the Great State of Utah!” Trump posted on Truth Social.

Staggs earned a spot on the June 25 primary ballot, but the convention’s second-place finisher, Rep. John Curtis, is also still in the running because he, along with former Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson and businessman Jason Walton, submitted enough signatures to qualify. Several other candidates, including attorney Brent Orrin Hatch, the son of the late Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, did not qualify for the primary because they failed to gather enough signatures and did not win at least 40 percent of the vote at the convention.

In the 1st Congressional District, electrician Paul Miller got more convention backing than Rep. Blake D. Moore, the vice chair of the House Republican Conference, but Moore did secure enough delegate support to make the primary ballot.

Likewise in the 2nd District, Rep. Celeste Maloy trailed former U.S. Army Special Forces Green Beret Col. Colby Jenkins at the nominating convention but received enough support to qualify for the primary.

Maloy won a special election in November to fill the unexpired term of former Republican Rep. Chris Stewart, her on-time boss who stepped down last year citing his wife’s health issues.

Sen. Mike Lee endorsed Jenkins, saying his “commitment to the Constitution, fiscal responsibility, limited government, and individual liberty make him the best candidate to represent Utah’s values in Washington.”

Maloy and Lee tangled over a bill to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Both Republicans supported a provision that would have required the government to get a warrant before searching for the information of Americans. But when that provision failed, Maloy voted in favor of reauthorizing the bill.

Following the convention vote, Maloy posted a message on social media thanking her supporters “for not listening to the rhetoric.”

The convention backed state Sen. Mike Kennedy to fill the seat Curtis is giving up in the 3rd District. He will face fellow Republicans J.R. Bird, Stewart Peay, John “Frugal” Dougall and Case Lawrence, who submitted enough signatures to get on the primary ballot.

The fourth member of the state’s congressional delegation, Rep. Burgess Owens, did not face Republican opposition at the convention.

Utah also faces a competitive primary for governor, and at the convention, delegates booed Republican Gov. Spencer Cox, who received less than a third of the delegates’ support, trailing state Rep. Phil Lyman. But Cox had gathered enough signatures to earn a place on the primary ballot.

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